WordPress 3.2 & new theme

If you are a regular, you may have noticed that I switched theme. I was using the excellent fusion theme that I found on this site, which like the theme seems to be no longer maintained. So when I upgraded to wordpress 3.2 this morning, I noticed there is a new default theme in there that I kind of like.

The best feature is support for multiple header photos. So I’ve cropped and uploaded a few photos from my collection and the site will now randomly pick one of the photos listed below. So simple, but so nice to have. Otherwise the theme is pretty basic, which I think is appropriate for a blog. Also it does microformats (which was a major annoyance with the old theme). Finally, it just looks nice and it is likely to be maintained for a while (with it shipping with wordpress and all).

Panorama of Lisbon

Lisbon

Click to see the slightly larger version.

Here’s a nice Panorama of Lisbon that I shot a few weeks ago using my new Canon 550D. It consists 10 individual 18 mega pixel photos at full focal length (135mm) to zoom in across the Tejo river (around 1500m) that were stitched together using the ever amazing Hugin. The latest version of this is quite amazing at basically figuring out everything by itself. It’s like here’s a bunch of pictures, make a panorama out of that. And then it goes off and finds common points in the photos, arranges them in a grid that makes sense. Adjusts for lens characteristics, rotates, translates and distorts the photos until they overlap perfectly, adjusts tonality of the photos to match, blends the photos seamlessly and finally spits out a big whopping tif file. There are other tools that do some of these things but this one is the best by far. If you are willing to tweak the tool, it can do some pretty funky things like HDR panoramas (i.e. stitch together overlapping photos with multiple exposures), do panoramas where the photos have different exposures and tonality, use different projections for the panorama, drag around the stitched panorama inside whichever projection you chose to influence how things look, manually identify overlapping points, plugin experimental tools and algorithms for the various steps of creating a panorama, etc.

Unfortunately, you have to down-size this kind of images for the web and apply lots of jpeg compression. The final image is 10032×1024 pixels, downsized from 21896×2235 to save some precious bandwidth. The tif weighs in at a bit over 100MB. The lowests size jpeg I managed to get out of the full image was around 2.5 MB, but at that size compression artifacts are very noticeable. So I instead re-sized to something that might fit on an over sized display (vertically at least) so that people will have to scroll in only one dimension and got the size down to 1.1 MB with a respectable compression rate of around 30%, which preserves a lot of detail.

I was positioned in front of the big Jesus statue that is visible from Lisbon. I later went up as well and shot some more photos, some of which you can admire here (along with the rest of my photos from that trip). There is one photo there with the same view in a single photo from up on the statue that gives you a nice impression of the zoom range of this camera. It looks like a panorama photo but it is really just a zoomed out photo that I cropped a little.

Photos Rome

I’ve been polishing my photos in Picasa and ended up using the nice sync feature to upload them to the corresponding photo sharing site as well. So go here to enjoy them.

Picasa is a bit of a downgrade since I used to spend way too much time polishing with powerful tools such as Photoshop, Gimp, etc. However, I find I like the workflow in Picasa better. And while the few basic edits you can do there leave something to be desired, it’s good enough. I have the Gimp installed as well but it’s just so slow, buggy and weird to work with it’s offensive and I won’t be investing in Photoshop on my new mac since the price is just way too high. Technically I could go for Photoshop elements except it doesn’t come with some features that I really would want (24 & 32 bit images, LAB mode, layers & ways to combine them, flexible masking, etc). You can sort of do some of that in the Gimp but it is frankly painful and the results tend to be underwhelming. I have some hopes that this KOffice photo thingy might live up to some of the hype. I’ll be giving it a try as soon as I can lay my hands on some Mac OS X binaries. Otherwise, if anyone knows of any other OSS photography tools for Mac I’d be very interested. I’m already a Hugin user as blogged earlier this week (and see above linked album for some nice panoramas).

Hugin 0.8

I’ve reviewed Hugin a couple of times already and have been maintaining a nice jalbum with some of my panoramas, most of which have been created with various versions of Hugin. For those not familiar with Hugin, it’s a graphical front-end for a couple of highly useful but hard to use command line tools that basically allow you to do what some call computational photography, which is creating new images out of existing ones by transforming, blending, matching them in all sorts of interesting ways. One application hugin supports is so-called high dynamic range photography that combines images with different exposures to create one image with a higher perceived dynamic range and another is stitching overlapping images by detecting identical points, morphing the images such that they line up and making sure they blend in a way that hides exposure differences and stitching + transformation artifacts. And in this new version, you can do both at the same time. I haven’t bothered with HDR so far but the stitching is great and the results seem like magic. It just works.

To be fair, it’s all pretty geeky and hard to set up but once installed and setup correctly, there’s really not much more to it than to load the images, align them (100% automated with Autopano), and click the stitch button. It seems to be more capable than it thinks since I just stitched half a dozen panorama photos from my vacation in the past two weeks. With no exception Hugin indicated a disastrously bad fit, which in earlier versions would mean you could throw away the photos. However, with no exception I was unable to find any big issues with the resulting stitched images. I shot the photos from hand and did not even bother to use a tripod. Instead I try to estimate roughly which axis to rotate around (somewhere center on the line with the lens when seen from above) and try to rotate the camera left to right on this axis. This explains the bad fit since inevitably you introduce some parallax problems this way. However, Hugin (and the tools it uses) seems to be able to recover from some pretty severe problems and mostly as long as you have enough overlap, the problems just melt away in the blending step. In one case I had a pretty awful preview and the resulting image after it was done was more or less free from artifacts despite that.

One of the crazy compositions I did was to shoot portrait mode in the Colloseum scanning left to right and ending up with 7 images. I did this portrait mode to maximize vertical pixels and fully relied on Hugin to fix any sloppy camera positioning from my side. The result is a huge resolution photo of the internals of the Colloseum. It will take me some time to properly select and edit all photos so you’ll have to do with this quickly polished and vastly downsized preview:

STA_5031

This really doesn’t do it justice since the full image is a whopping 107MB tiff image with 7838×2826 pixels, or about 22 mega pixels. You can literally count the bricks in that one or get a good look at people’s faces.

Anyway, more to follow as I process my images over the next few weeks. I have recently switched to owning a mac and have somewhat dumbed down my tool chain which is now mainly Hugin and Picasa (iphoto is just to weird for me). Picasa is of course somewhat limited but good enough for my needs. I’m considering buying Adobe Lightroom at some point but other than that I’ll probably be experimenting with the Gimp and other free toys I find. I’m still a big photoshop fan and it really is the tool for the job but sadly a bit beyond the budget I wish to spend and Photoshop Elements just doesn’t include the features I’m interested in using. The Gimp is unbearably slow, buggy, and weird but I can actually work with it to do most what I need.

Photos Nov 2008 -Now

I finally found some time to upload some photos.

I went to Berlin in November to apply for the job I now have. Then I spent Christmas in France. After that, I moved into a temporary flat in Berlin on February 1st. On my first visit back in Finland, I visited a friend in Espoo who lives close to the sea, which was frozen. Finally I took some nice photos of Berlin in my first few weeks here.

The nicest of which is the view I had from my temporary flat:

View from temporary apartment

I no longer live there and photos of my new place are coming soon. I probably will take a few at my upcoming house warming party: Friday 17th from 21:00, feel free to drop by if you are near.

Vacation photos

I’ve uploaded the photos from my recent vacation in Spain. Earlier, I posted an overview of the places I’ve visited so I won’t repeat that here. I took quite a bit of photos and filled both 1GB SD cards I have.

Of course, I took lots of nice panorama photos as well. The latter have also been added to my special stitched photo album where you can admire them in slightly higher resolution. Too bad I don’t have the bandwidth + space to put them up in full resolution. For example the one below is originally 18319×2191 pixels wide and composed of no less than 11 8 megapixel photos and the jpeg is 40 MB. The level of detail is amazing. WordPress is sadly messing up the aspect ratio but if you click on it you should see it properly.

My former house

GeenStijl : ANP doet Google Earth na.

Ten years ago, I was a computer science student in Utrecht who was about to leave the Netherlands to live in Sweden. At the time, I had been living for about a year in a very spacious (50m2) attic room on a top location: Domplein, complete with nice view over the square.

A Dutch reporter took some photos from a balloon which gives a nice perspective on how nice this room was. I’ve highlighted which building was I lived in. The house, a four story monumental building was owned by a lawyer. The bottom floor was an apartment he rented out and he had converted the attic into two student apartments. The front apartment, which was the largest, was mine. The front two windows were both mine, as well as the little window on the side. Total rent was 675 guilders per month. Try find an apartment with that price in euros these days (at the moment of introduction, 1 euro was slightly overvalued at 2.2 Guilders). Anyway, at the time it seemed like a lot of money.

As you can see right next to my left there is a pretty big tower and half a cathedral. In fact this is the largest church tower in the Netherlands and you can read all about the missing half of the cathedral on wikipedia. It was noisy too, especially at night. But you stop noticing after some time.